Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reading - A Conundrum

The United States has an obsession with reading - and not in a good way. It's really an obsession with who is reading, what those people are reading and for how long. I have the feeling that it is one of those things with which we have become overly concerned. We are focusing on it so intently and picking at it like an itchy scab that it is never going to be fixed.

These are some curious ideas: How Public Libraries Are Solving America's Reading Problem. There is a lot of talk about merchandising and displays, dumping the Dewey Decimal System, etc. I say the ideas are curious because none of these ideas are new. This discussion has been worked over for more than a decade; the article is mostly about merchandising books rather than warehousing them.

HPL is decidedly a warehouse - mainly out of necessity. We have so many items in our collection that we have to use every shelf, every corner and every nook that we can to store them. Heck, we even have an overflow area for items with seasonal interest!

Many of the ideas in the Forbes article linked above would require radical shifts were HPL to try them. Would you be more likely to search for your next great read in a bookstore-like atmosphere rather than our VERY library-like library?

Would you be interested in using a building that had fewer items out for immediate access, but displayed in bookstore-style "subject areas"?

The fact of the matter is that the use of our library has flattened out both in terms of people walking through the door (-3%) and circulation overall (-2%) in 2013. The question is open though as to whether people are reading less, or just reading differently than the ways they used to read. How can the library best serve you in helping to promote reading?

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